The hard truth about soft skills
Skills such as public speaking and writing can seem less important than knowledge-based hard skills like research or coding — but in a competitive job market, soft skills make a dramatic difference. Our industry experts tell you why.
What happens when you have a difference of opinion with a coworker? Can you successfully pitch an idea to a boardroom of executives? What about your ability to effectively negotiate resources in a competitive workplace?
These are difficult situations, and you can’t always learn how to navigate them by reading a book or watching a video tutorial. It takes time, practice and experience to hone your response and language. That’s why soft skills such as intellectual openness and conflict resolution, creativity and innovative thinking, and resilience and flexibility — to name only a few — are becoming increasingly sought after by employers across all industries.
The job market is incredibly competitive, especially for mid-career professionals looking to switch sectors or earn a promotion. According to job search platform Glassdoor, the average corporate job posting sees as many as 250 applications. It’s never been more valuable to differentiate yourself in a saturated market, and industry experts agree a range of soft skills can set you apart.
Christa Hill and Renee Matsalla are the Co-founders of Tacit Edge, an innovative Product Management and Leadership company in Calgary dedicated to promoting and cultivating entrepreneurship in the tech sector. With decades of experience working with the world’s biggest companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Morgan Stanley, alongside on-the-ground efforts building start-ups — they know what it takes to build successful products and careers.
"We coach people who are very late in their careers, and it's not the knowledge skills that hold people back, it's skills like leadership, empathy, and being able to work with others. Those are the things that get people to progress throughout their career,” says Hill.
"I recently heard someone say they’re not soft skills, they are hard skills. They’re difficult to practice, learn and keep doing,” explains Matsalla. “You can watch a video and learn how to do a competitive analysis, you can read blogs to learn about it — but it requires practice, support and building confidence.”
As an industry partner in developing and supporting the School for Advanced Digital Technology’s Applied Product Management Bootcamp, the team at Tacit Edge integrates skills like public speaking, storytelling and emotional intelligence to help graduates land jobs.
“We're all about essential skills here and we see the importance no matter where you are in your career. Whether you're pivoting, already employed or whether you're a leader at an organization that needs to upskill,” says Matsalla. “We remind people of the skills that they need within an organization to build excellent products for folks that work for the business as well.”
Writing an important email or cold-calling a new client may seem easy in theory, but once you’re in the moment — nerves, anxiety or simply lack of experience can derail even the best-made plans. Hill and Matsalla say it’s crucial to practice these skills without the intensity or pressure of real-world situations.
"Renee and I learned all of our skills around facilitation and high-risk activities with very expensive meetings with 60 people participating,” adds Hill. “Imagine the cost per hour on all 60 of those people, and you're going to send in a junior who's never done this before? It's really a hard way to learn so we remove that risk as associated with it being their first time, and we coach them through that.”
Continuing Education offers a diverse range of courses designed to give you the practical experience you need to create new career opportunities. Whether you’re looking to improve you conflict resolution skills, run more effective meetings or become a better negotiator — there’s never been a better time to put your professional development budget to use.
What are you waiting for? Registration is now open, explore our Spring offerings:
- Emotional Intelligence
- Resolving Conflict for Administrative Professionals
- Communicating Effectively
- Assertiveness for Personal and Business Success
- Leadership Skills
- Strategic Planning
- Better Together: Generations at Work
- Leaders as Coaches
- Influence Matters
- Problem Solving and Decision Making
- Conflict Management
- Negotiation Essentials
- Meetings & Minutes
- Understanding Change
- Conducting Effective Meetings